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10 Common Questions for IELTS

The official website of IELTS offers most of information test takers are searching. The answers for 10 common questions hopefully feed you extra data to plan your IELTS preparation.

1. What is IELTS?
IELTS means International English Language Testing System.
  • It is an English language exam designed for non-native English speakers;
  • It tests the ability to communicate in the four basic language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking;
  • Each skill are tested separately, and has same weight in overall score;
  • The test has 2 versions: Academic an General.
  • Each test lasts two hours and forty-five minutes;
  • The IELTS has existed since 1989. Now over 2,000,000 tests are registered in over 120 countries every year.
2. Who is the organizer of IELTS and who accepts its scores?
The IELTS is run by three organizations: the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL). However, this test isn't just a test for British English. It's accepted by 1000+ colleges and other organizations in the world, from USA, UK, Canada, Australia, to India.

3. What is the IELTS version?
There are two types in IELTS exam: General and Academic. They are designed for different goals. Listening and speaking tests are same, but reading and writing aren't. Many people think General version is easier than Academic, but the two versions actually focus on different test takers. Because scores of two versions are not interchangeable, you must know in advance which one is your purpose.
  • Same: Listening Module and Speaking Module
  • Different: Reading Module and Writing Module
4. Who should take IELTS General test?
General IELTS is supposed to serve the people who wish to live or work in a country of English, not including to study at college in such a country. The General IELTS is the relatively simpler one. It tests basic survival skills in social and educational contexts. It is designed for candidates applying for immigration, working in English countries. For example, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand governments request people who wish to apply for immigration to take IELTS General test.

5. Who should take IELTS Academic test?
IELTS Academic test reflects normal English training level. Simply speaking, the Academic IELTS is the advanced test and more difficult. This version is usually used to determine whether candidates are qualified to study in college or university for academic programs where English is primary language. The version is taken by two main categories of people:
  • Those who want to study in the USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or other English countries;
  • Those who need to demonstrate their English proficiency.
6. How does IELTS score?
IELTS scores are in terms of bands of language ability. The band range is from 1 to 9, with full and half band scores, like 6 or 6.5. The highest score is a Band 9, which means Expert User: Has full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding. ESL (English as Second Language) students hardly get this score.

After examining, you receive separate scores in each of listening, reading, writing and speaking. The four scores relies on your skills in separate sections. In addition, a fifth score, which is called overall score, is calculated to indicate your overall score. So your test report has 5 scores. Some organizations are only concerned with overall score; some require specific scores in individual modules.

7. What mark is a good score?
IELTS is designed to test English level for specified purposes. Basically there is no good or bad; the only thing is if your skill matches with the requirement. Following cases may give you some hints:
  • To apply for top 10 universities, like Harvard University IELTS Academic should be more than 7.5;
  • To apply for universities ranking 200-300 of the world, IELTS Academic should be more than 5.5;
  • To apply for immigrating to Canada, IELTS General should be more than 5;
IELTS has definitions for each mark. To help understand the examples, list some of them:

Band 8 Very Good User Has full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies .

Band 7 Good User Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, and misunderstandings in some situations.

Band 6 Competent User Has general effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, and misunderstandings

Band 5 Modest User Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes.

8. Is there any prerequisites to take IELTS test?
No, if you just want to try the test. Find a test center and register a test seat, then pay fee on demand. You can take the test on specified date. However, if you want to get a meaningful score, you must show your English skills. For General test, you should have middle school grammar level, and at least 5000 basic vocabulary; for Academic test, high school grammar and additional 4000 academic vocabulary are fundamental to get 5 or up marks.

9. How much effort do I have to pay in order to get a better score?
This is really relied on your current level. If your overall is between 5 and 7, 3 months full time IELTS study probably can increase 0.5 or 1 point on average. Of course, it assumed that you choose right method and tool to ensure your effort would eliminate shortcomings efficiently.

10. Can I prepare IELTS test online?
Yes. Actually over half of test takers prepare IELTS by self studying. Online resources and courses are more and more popular among them. If you decide to prepare IELTS online, you never feel alone and will see lots of options powered by cutting edge English training theory and information technology. Examword.com is one of the options.